Week in Review: Nov.  15, 2020

Provided by Hannah News Service

FY20-21 BUDGET

Strong sales tax collections offset a drop in income tax revenue to put the state $84.8 million or 4.3% ahead of estimates for October, according to preliminary data from the Office of Budget and Management (OBM). For the fiscal year to date, tax revenues are up $347.2 million or 4.2%, with $8.62 billion collected through October versus $8.27 billion expected. Sales tax collections represent the bulk of the overage, coming in nearly $268 million or 7.3% ahead of projections. Notwithstanding, the current overage, the pandemic and its economic effects are creating significant uncertainty for the coming months, OBM Director Kimberly Murnieks told Hannah News.

BUSINESS/CORPORATE

The Ohio Restaurant Association  announced the latest results in its regular survey of Ohio establishments Monday, saying that 86 percent of respondents expect a net loss for the year due to effects of the pandemic.

CIVIL RIGHTS

Ohio was recently named among the worst states for gender equality according to an analysis by the financial advisory website WalletHub. Women's rights in the U.S. have made leaps in the 100 years since the passage of the 19th Amendment, but the gender gap in America persists. While women make up more than 50% of the population, they constitute only around 24% of legislators and 25% of Fortune 500 board seats, WalletHub said. In 2020, women also face inequality when it comes to unemployment during the COVID-19 pandemic. Women have been laid off at a greater rate than men and are also re-employed more slowly. In addition, the share of the workforce that is female is now at its lowest point since 2008.

CORONAVIRUS

COVID cases climbed upward substantially over the week, with new records for daily case growth again broken soon after they were set. The 5,008 cases reported Friday, Nov. 6 marked a new record at the time, one quickly overtaken by Saturday’s 5,549 cases, Tuesday’s 6,508 cases and Thursday’s 7,101 cases. The updated Ohio Public Health Advisory System map now has 68 counties that are rated as having a very high risk of exposure and spread, up from 56 counties last week and hitting the highest number of red, level three counties since the launch of the advisory system in July.

With Ohio in the midst of a "third wave" with far higher COVID-19 numbers than the spring and summer, Gov. Mike DeWine told the public Wednesday evening that previous health orders on masks and gathering limits are being "reaffirmed" with additional provisions. He continued that another closure of restaurants, bars and fitness centers may be ordered based on how the data changes by Thursday, Nov. 19. The order on masks is being reissued with three new provisions on mandatory signage, requirements for businesses to enforce the order and creation of a state retail compliance unit. First violations will result in a written warning, while a second violation can lead to store closure for up to 24 hours.

DeWine announced Thursday the creation of two new dashboards. The first will expand the COVID-19 dashboard through the Ohio Department of Health and will allow Ohioans to view data from their local communities, and filter the data by probable or confirmed case status, county, a specific ZIP code, or a specific time period. Case counts will also be available on a downloadable, filterable chart sorted from the most cases to the least. Case counts for ZIP codes with fewer than five cases or less than 100 total residents will not be displayed. He also announced a new flu dashboard that expands the statewide data that ODH shares on seasonal flu activity each year.

The Controlling Board approved four items added late to its agenda Monday, including $30 million in coronavirus relief funds that will go to local health departments as the state sees a spike in COVID-19 cases. Anthony Perry, the chief financial officer of the Ohio Department of Health (ODH), said the bulk of the funds will go to local health departments for epidemiology, support staff and services related to the pandemic. He said each of the local health departments is expected to receive $200,000 from the fund. Additionally, the funds will allow ODH to provide staff and contract workers to local health departments to help deal with the outbreak.

ELECTIONS 2020

While the Associated Press (AP) and all the major TV news networks -- including Fox News -- called the presidential race for Joe Biden on Saturday, most of Ohio's Republican leaders are either refusing to acknowledge the former vice president's win or are backing President Donald Trump's baseless attacks on elections officials in states where he happens to be losing. While Biden is projected by the AP and other major news outlets to have taken either 279 or 290 of the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the presidency, Trump and many of his campaign supporters have alleged, without evidence, that widespread fraud caused Trump's loss.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost Monday filed an amicus brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene in a lawsuit challenging the decision of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to order the counting of mailed absentee ballots that are postmarked by Election Day but received by boards of elections up to three days after Election Day.

EMPLOYMENT/UNEMPLOYMENT

According to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, if the September employment rebound after the initial COVID-19 disruptions continues throughout 2020 in a similar magnitude, total employment is predicted to increase at an annual rate of 1.66% for the next six months in Ohio.

NONPROFIT ORGANIZATIONS

The House State and Local Government Committee held a first hearing Wednesday on Rep. John Rogers' (D-Mentor-on-the-Lake) HB531, which would require the taxpayer-funded economic development nonprofit organization JobsOhio to submit to audits by the auditor of state. According to Rogers, who said he has spoken extensively with Auditor of State Keith Faber on the matter, JobsOhio currently has a "gentleman's agreement" with the auditor's office to undergo an audit from a third-party firm and provide certain information to the state, but the agreement is not codified, nor is an audit of JobsOhio currently required by law.

A survey of Ohio charitable nonprofit organizations found that while they fared better in August 2020 than they did in April, funding challenges still remain as a marked decrease in individual and corporate donations persists. Conducted by researchers at Ohio State University's John Glenn College of Public Affairs and in partnership with the Ohio Attorney General's office, the Ohio Association of Nonprofit Organizations and Philanthropy Ohio, the survey of over 7,500 public charity organizations across the state found that more than 50 percent reported a decrease in individual donations, 44% reported a decrease in corporate donations, and 33%, a decrease in earned income for services provided.

TAXATION

Even though the General Assembly recently repealed the sales tax exemption for bullion in the last budget, HB166 (Oelslager), Rep. Riordan McClain (R-Upper Sandusky) advocated for its reinstatement during a presentation to the House Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday. McClain said he's still waiting on a report showing the revenue gained from these taxes since its effective date of Oct. 1, 2019. McClain's father, former Rep. Jeff McClain, is currently the commissioner of the Ohio Department of Taxation.

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